The whole thing was kind of a farce without A-Rod involved, but the American League and National League squared off last night in Cincinnati to decide whose league would unfairly be granted home field advantage in the World Series. Thanks to some bookend power and a deep pool of devastating relievers, the AL was able to nab the win and grab that World Series advantage for the Yankees come October.
Mike Trout led off the game with an at-bat that screamed "I'm the best baseball player on the planet and nobody forget it." He fell behind NL starter Zack Greinke 0-2, took an outside fastball for a ball, then waited on another one and drove it the other way for a solo home run to right field. It was almost like he was setting Greinke up for that from the start. 1-0 AL.
The NL manufactured a run in the bottom of the 2nd with a Paul Goldschmidt single, a throwing error, an advance to third on a groundout, and a 2-out RBI single by Jhonny Peralta to tie the game, and it looked like we were settling in for a low-scoring affair as Greinke and AL starter Dallas Keuchel gave way to the gaggle of top-tier arms waiting behind them. Then the top of the 5th came, Clayton Kershaw entered the game, and the AL took the lead for good.
The inning started innocently enough with an Alcides Escobar base hit and 2 quick outs that didn't advance the runner. That runner was Trout after he beat out a double play ball, and after Albert Pujols drew a walk, pinch hitter Prince Fielder poked a ground ball single through the left side of the infield, scoring Trout from second thanks mostly to Trout's all-world speed. Lorenzo Cain followed up with a double down the line to bring home Pujols and it was 3-1 AL.
They basically took command of the game from there. Andrew McCutchen homered off Chris Archer to bring the NL back within 1 in the bottom of the 6th, but Ned Yost went to the actual reliever part of his bullpen after that and choked out any chance of a comeback.. Zach Britton got 2 outs to end the 6th, Dellin Betances struck out 1 and got 2 GB outs in a scoreless 7th, and Wade Davis fanned 2 in a scoreless 8th. By the time the NL got a run off closer Glen Perkins in the 9th, the game was already out of reach.
The extra cushion came courtesy of Manny Machado, who doubled home Brock Holt in the 7th inning and scored on Prince Fielder's sac fly to make it 5-2. Brian Dozier smacked a solo home run in the top of the 8th to put the cherry on top. Yost went with a very specific strategy for this game and it worked out in his favor. How about that?
- As for the other Yankee representatives in the game, Brett Gardner entered the game in the 5th for Adam Jones and went 0-2 with 2 strikeouts at the plate. Mark Teixeira, sporting a sweet neon green arm sleeve, came on for Pujols in the 6th and went 0-2 with 1 strikeout.
- Betances was his usual electric self. He was flashing 98-99 on his fastball and struck out Joe Panik on a nasty curveball. The at-bat against Kris Bryant was a fun battle too, even if Betances came out on the wrong side of it with a walk.
- The other pitching highlight of the night was Jacob deGrom coming on for the NL in the 6th and striking out the side on 10 pitches. The FOX broadcast team took it a little overboard in their praise - it was Vogt, Kipnis, Iglesias, not Ruth, Williams, Bonds - but it was still pretty impressive, with a hint of Randy Johnson-ness to it.
- Trout is so good. He's really, really good. It feels like he's been around forever already and there's a growing number of people on the internet who think he's overrated and an undeserving media darling, but keep in mind that he's only 23. He's super young, he's still getting better, and he's absolutely the best player on the planet. It was all on display in his time on the field last night, and there's a reason Yost left him in for as long as he did. If you're one of those Mike Trout haters and you can't just appreciate how incredible he is as an athlete and a baseball player at this age, you've got serious problems and must be terrible to go to games with.
- Cool to see Lorenzo Cain have a 2-3 night against the best pitching in the game. I didn't know his whole backstory until a few months ago and it's amazing that he's become an All Star-caliber player in such a short time playing the game. You don't see that every day.